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What scripts are you following?

I was sitting in the final session of a year-long spiritual class I had taken, my final project proudly sitting on my lap as I awaited my turn. We each would be given time to share the culmination of our work in the program as well as reflections on the experience.

I enjoyed working on my final project - a book of poetry I had written and bound myself that captured the essence of the journey I had embarked on.

So, I enthusiastically volunteered to go first. I shared my poems, passed around my book and spoke about my experiences in the class.

As everyone else took their turns after me I became incredibly self-conscious. No one else created something for their final project like I had. And I had spent a few hours, joyous hours, but hours none-the-less on it. Meanwhile, everyone else had brought food to share.

As I sat there, feeling self-conscious and awkward, I noticed two scripts running in my head.

The first one went like this, "You're so selfish, you spent time finishing your final instead of bringing food to share." Because I literally spent the hour before class binding my book.

The second one went like this, "You're such an over-achiever, you're the only one that made a final project. Oh and you're selfish." 

We all have scripts that run in the background, like a commentator of our lives. They place judgment and value on things, force us into boxes, and quietly direct our feelings and actions. 

These scripts often come from childhood experiences. They are frequently based on the words we heard growing up, particularly when messages were laden with shame, judgment and ridicule. 

As a girl, I constantly received messages to not be selfish and that I should prioritize doing things for others overdoing things for myself. I was often told that my out-of-the-box ideas and unusual way of doing things was selfish. That I should just accept the way things are and be like everyone else.

I was also incredibly self-conscious of my intellect. For years I believed I was stupid because I was placed in a remedial reading program in elementary school and the teacher told my parents I was a lost cause. I had hidden that part of my story until I was in my 30's and had a habit of going into an over-achiever role in order to compensate for my perceived ineptitude.

So, it's no surprise that, in that moment, my inner critic had these old scripts cued and ready to go. The scripts reinforced my feelings of awkwardness and shame. 

And what's even more astounding, no one else in the room showed me judgment or shame in this way. This was an entirely self-imposed reaction to my own vulnerability. A mechanism of fear. 

If I had listened to my scripts in that moment I would have shut down and stopped engaging. Instead, I turned to a blank page in my journal, wrote "My Scripts" at the top and jotted these two scripts down.

It was such a simple act for reclaiming my power. Seeing the scripts on paper, they appeared far less menacing. I could even laugh at them. And instead of entering a shame spiral, I showed myself compassion.

Anytime you experience a moment of meta-awareness like this, you have the potential to give yourself a great gift. Being able to observe yourself in the midst of following a script (or pattern) enables you to interrupt it and reclaim your power within. 

There are countless scripts that play in the back of your mind in response to all kinds of different situations you experience. These scripts project your past experiences onto your present circumstances in an effort to preserve and protect your self-interests. But because the experiences reinforced from the past rarely fit current circumstances they become incredibly limiting.

These scripts relate to the roles you play and your sense of identity in the world around you. Part of the process of becoming aware of these scripts includes recognizing those roles and acknowledging what you have believed is necessary for you to fulfill them. That is why listing out the roles that you play and deconstructing what it means to successfully fulfill those roles is a powerful journaling exercise.

As you bring these stories into the forefront of your mind, you are inviting yourself to start noticing them in the moment because you are signaling to the Reticular Activating System to filter this information into your conscious rather than out. That meta-awareness enables you to interrupt the pattern and rewrite the script. 

There was no reason for me to follow an outdated script in my class - doing so would have actually caused me more harm than good. We all have the power to rewrite our stories and edit the script we are following, we just have to make the effort to do so.

Want to journal more but are having trouble getting started? Check out our next Journal Jam on October 14th.

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